Our mission is to eliminate food waste and build a better food system for everyone. A huge part of that mission is to make healthy food more accessible. To help make this happen, we started a Free Farmers Market outside of our warehouse in San Francisco. We’re excited to share that, earlier this year, one of our Bayview neighbors, the Southeast Health Center, took over managing this market to take it to the next level. To learn more about their work, we sat down with Keith W. Seidel, the Health Center’s Medical Director.
Imperfect Foods: What is the Southeast Health Center?
Keith Seidel: Southeast Health Center, located in the Bayview District, is part of the SF Health Network and is operated by the Public Health Department. We’re a full spectrum family wellness clinic that aims to improve the health and wellbeing of the community members in our neighborhood. We serve over 4,400 patients and aim to grow to 11,000 in the next few years.
IF: For those that might not know it, what’s so special about the Bayview neighborhood?
KS: The Bayview District is one of the more unique areas of San Francisco. It’s home to the working class and has generations of families who moved here originally to work the shipyards in the Bay Area. Many of the homes are still the family homes that were purchased between 1930 and 1940. Additionally, the Bayview is home to a large marginally housed (also known as homeless) population, given that its microclimate is warmer than other parts of the city.
IF: How did the Free Produce Market get started?
KS: We noticed how important social elements of health are for determining health outcomes. Schools in Bayview are low performing and have the highest dropout rate in the city. The obesity rate for children 0-18 is 85%. Since the Bayview has only one grocery store and few healthy food options, we reached out to Imperfect Foods and started the Free Produce Market
IF: How has Imperfect supported your work?
KS: Imperfect supplies the produce, boxes, and storage advice for our Free Produce Market. This relationship has allowed us to provide food in a culturally sensitive and respectful way to Bayview residents, and enables people to try different types of produce they would never have been able to afford.
IF: How much produce do you give away each week at the Free Produce Market?
KS: We provide over 100 boxes of produce each week to patients and community members weekly along with nutritional advice, exercise advice, and wellness support. We estimate that about 200 to 300 community members take advantage of this great opportunity each week.
IF: What is the impact of this free produce?
KS: It helps us address the fact that, in our community, the vast majority of food that is affordable and available has no nutritional value, which perpetuates the cycle of unhealthy habits for low income residents. Having a healthy, free alternative for food helps to balance the inequity.
IF: How can people get involved?
KS: Food deserts are real and only help to reinforce our social disparities. Working to make access to healthy food for all people should be a priority for our society. Anyone who wants to help expand the program by donating time, supplies, or connections can visit our website or call us at (415) 671-7000.